Two Men. Eight Turntables. Hundreds of seven inches and musical mayhem. Friday’s night’s sold out Park West show saw the meeting of two great minds: Cut Chemist, aka Lucas MacFadden, and DJ Shadow, otherwise known as Josh Davis. The two have collaborated both with other DJs and each other in the past and demonstrated a fantastic dynamic presence and timing that comes from countless hours of planning and rehearsal. Turntabilism at its best uses the countless influences throughout music and pop culture since vinyl was invented and spins them as if they are all happening at the same time, creating something new from it all. Though they weren’t playing instruments, the coordination of all of these different aspects of songs in a way that makes auditory sense is nothing short of amazing to anyone who loves music.
I’ve been a DJ Shadow fan since his 1996 release Endtroducing which really defined him as not just a hip hop artist but a trip hop one. But the way both artists have combined samples has always impressed me. Cut Chemist, who is also well known for his work with Jurassic 5, has built a solid history in the genre as well as released his own stellar solo work. His latest album, The Audience’s Listening, shows his ability to refine his talent as well. It’s an album that makes the listener infinitely happy and full of energy. I can’t imagine where he finds what seems like millions of different sounds and bizarre old timey speech recordings (“In case of nuclear attack, protection of records is essential.”) I would love to be able to see a set by both of them of their own songs at some later date. The one time I did see Cut Chemist, it was at the Apple Store and he not surprisingly sampled DJ Shadow and provided just as diverse images behind him as samples.
This collaboration, an homage to the seven inch, was also fantastic. I think you can appreciate it from the standpoint of the audience member who tries to pick out every little nook and cranny of sound, identifying it with the album it’s from. Another way to appreciate it is as it’s own collage. There were a couple of down notes in the set, mainly the slowed down version of a full song that I’m not familiar with but features repeatedly the girl’s name “Charlene.” This was warped and probably played at the 33rpm speed and may have made for a great reoccurring 30 second sample in a separate piece but dragged as a main feature. I wasn’t completely thrilled with the mash up between the theme of Gilligan’s Island and Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven,” either. These were minor slow spots in an otherwise great set, however. I heard some of my favorite eclectic samples from Queen’s “We Will Rock You” to the very shimmery beginning of Simon & Garfunkel’s “El Condor Pasa.” There was also an amusing tribute to both video games and Atari with a fun Pac Man sample running through.
As if that weren’t enough, the music was often joined by video clips that felt very retro in their highlight of vinyl. Classic stills of females that could easily have come from 60s mags were displayed with their eyes becoming replaced with seven inches. Throughout the set, when the double screens weren’t focused on following their own record playing, the videos focused on others playing records or just the records themselves in various contexts-sometimes spinning around and sometimes climbing up fences. Both combined made for a really fantastic evening and, as a grand finale, both DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist came to the forefront of the stage wearing their own portable seven inch players!